Donation Joins Museum Move
When the new Frontiers
of Flight Museum (TX) opens this spring, one display will be the
forward section of a Boeing 737-200 airplane donated by Southwest
Airlines. Southwest, which makes its headquarters at Love Field,
retired aircraft N102SW in late January and airline employees have
volunteered to work in their off-time to get the section ready for
The donation comes as the 15-year-old museum prepares to move
out of its old location, a 5,500-square-foot cranny in the Love
Field terminal, to a new, $9 million, 100,000-square-foot,
stand-alone building at 6911 Lemmon Ave. at the airport. Museum
supporters are working to raise $16 million to fund programs,
services and exhibits, which will be heavily focused on educating
children about aviation. Southwest and its chairman, Herb Kelleher,
have long been financial contributors to Frontiers of Flight, said
Dan Hamilton, executive director of the museum.
"We had asked Southwest if they'd like to sponsor one of the
exhibits," Hamilton said. "Herb Kelleher came back and said
'Instead of x dollars for that, I'll give you the front end of a
real plane.' "
The donated plane
entered service March 15, 1984, for Southwest Airlines. It flew its
last three flights on Jan. 23 from Southwest's original three
cities: Dallas to San Antonio, San Antonio to Houston, and Houston
to Dallas, making its final landing at Love Field at 5:26 p.m.
Capt. Milt Painter and first officer Eric Murer piloted the plane,
according to Todd Painter, an airline spokesman.
The plane was retired because it had served its useful life, he
said. Typically Southwest removes useable components, as well as
the engine, then sells the retired jet, worth about $150,000, to a
company that scraps the aluminum fuselage. Any re-usable parts,
such as the flaps, rudder and parts of the wings called ailerons,
are sold and returned to service, with the scrapping company
sharing a portion of those profits with Southwest.
For this plane, Southwest has hired Washington-based repair and
overhaul company Aero Controls Inc. to cut the nose from the
fuselage. Aero Controls began the process Feb. 13 in a former
Dalfort Aerospace L.P. hangar at Love Field.
"They have a team of
five or six carpenters, bubble wrappers and mechanics," said Gary
Bjarke, manager of maintenance contracts for Southwest. "They'll
use a sort of chain saw to cut off the nose. We'll cut it a little
long and then pretty it up for the museum." Bjarke and Mike
Patterson, Southwest's head of maintenance control field
technicians, are managing the project.
"Everything else that's being done to prepare this cockpit --
and it will include the galley and lavatory -- is going to be
handled by our employees, our mechanics," Painter said. "It's a
great way to give back to the community and have a presence at the
Completion, which will take about six weeks, is being done in a
Southwest maintenance hangar at Love Field. The museum's grand
opening is set for May 21, Hamilton said. The cockpit, galley and
lavatory will be the centerpiece of a 20,000-square-foot learning
center illustrating aviation careers, said Painter.